Friday, January 15, 2016

Transitioning to the Empty Nest

Our first empty nest trip together
2015 was a big year for us as it was the year our son graduated from high school and moved on to college leaving us as empty nesters. 

As the time approached my mind was filled with thoughts  about how our life and potentially our relationship would change. Our only child household had in many ways been centered on the life of our son with activities and the joy of having his friends around.

There are a lot of marriages that are held together by having the child in the middle. That is a great danger if not handled with care which can lead to couples falling apart after the children have gone. On the other side, there are marriages that post children move into a new season that is full of richness and of new adventure together. It can be the beginning of the best of times together as a couple. 

Six months into our empty nest life and our fear of the change has gradually abated. We have grown new relationship habits and continue to look forward to the future while not dwelling in the past. Life is indeed good and just getting better together all the time. 

Here are some key tips that have made the transition work for us.

Have your own life

A lot of couples are so centered on their children that once they are gone they a left with no identity of their own. They have no friends or hobbies or activities that did not center around the child. Key here is to start the transition in the years prior to the child leaving by taking stock in your current life what considering what life will be like once the kids are gone. Trust me that this is not hard since the last couple of years of high school are a blur especially after the driver’s license.

This is a time so encourage the child to do more on their own so they can be prepared for life away from home. Everything from doing their laundry, having a part time job, cooking, budgeting and being away without your guidance is good. The bonus is that you can use this time as a couple to do more together and plan for your future.

Communicate

This can be especially hard for us guys. Fellas you might find this hard to believe but your wife may not be feeling worse or better than you about the change. You will not know how she really feels unless you take some time to ask and just listen. The greatest gift you can give your wife during this transition is to just be present and allow her process her feelings about the change on her own schedule and in her own way. Asking and listening will ensure she knows you support and love her. 

Have a plan

There is nothing more energizing than having a plan for the future. It is the best tool for forward motivation because life is way better when excited about something you are going to do or have in the future. If you have never sat down as a couple and created a written plan for your future now it the time to do it. We broke our plan into categories including places to go, things to do, stuff to buy and financing our future. Make sure to have short term as well as long term goals and things that are big dreams as well as things that are simple possibilities.

Get back to basics

Men this is a time for sure to take stock in yourself and your efforts in the relationship. Perhaps you have been a little lax with being a partner around the house. It might be time to pick up some more responsibility with things as simple as grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning.

Show your wife through your actions and words that you think she is more beautiful and more wonderful than even in the early days of your relationship. Make effort to praise her and to tell her how much you are looking forward to spending the rest of your life with her. It is okay if your life with kids made you strangers to each other. Perhaps it is just time to “date” again and experience the excitement of new beginnings with your spouse.


Yes the transition to the empty nest is a big change but with just a little work and a positive outlook it can be the start of your greatest season yet. 


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

How to make your goals happen in 2016

Yes 2016 is here and it is time once again to reflect on the year that was and plan for the year can be. For years I have taken time to write down my goals and think about what I can do differently and what I can do the same to ensure the coming months go well.

There is always a lot of excitement about the start of the New Year. I have read that somewhere between 40 to 50 percent of people set resolutions or goals. I have also read that as many as 80 percent of people break at least one resolution within the first five days after setting them. Pretty sad huh?

I have been there too and have at times found myself not following through with my goals and soon I am angrier and disappointed at myself more then I was before making them.

One goal I have is to ride the bike 2,000 Miles in 2016
It is this feeling of repeated failure after not achieving that I think prevents many people from bothering to even try to have goals. After all, what is the point if you know you will fail again and not follow through?

I may be naïve but I truly believe there is always hope to strive to be better and to get started no matter how many times in the past you have tried and not succeeded. Perhaps these were just lesson on what not to do the next time. The mere fact that there are people that do change and do have success shows that it can be done.

So how do we make sure the goals happen?

Write them down! Just saying you have goal is not enough. You need a battle plan to succeed with very specific details. This should include very small success milestones that will allow you to celebrate along the way.

Want to lose 30 pounds? Great set that as a goal then add details around the healthy eating steps you will take. Instead of focusing on the big number make it small and think big picture. What if the goal instead were to lose 2 pounds? Sounds way better huh?

Share with others! There is no doubt that peer pressure and support from people that care about you will make a difference. Just be sure and share with true accountability people that will call you out in a loving way when you need a push to move forward.

Don’t give up! “Successful people consistently do what others will not” This is one of my all-time favorite quotes and my motivation theme for 2016.

Others will quit after their first failure. You will not!

Others will start each day expecting defeat. You will not!

The key word here is consistently since consistency lead to habits and habits lead to change that becomes so natural soon you will not give it a thought.


I believe 2016 can be a break out year for me and for you. Set your goals, share them and then get to work. We can do this! 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

On twenty years of marriage

Twenty years ago last week Michelle and I started the amazing journey of marriage together. Just a few years prior to that grand day we had met on a blind date through a mutual friend. Now many years later we are at a beginning again of sorts as we are stepping into life together as empty nesters since our only child has now moved off to college. It is very appropriate in a way to have this anniversary and the transition to a new life together in the same year.

These many years have been amazing and full of adventures, joy, heartache, togetherness, challenges learning and most of all love.

I can remember clearly in the years leading prior to meeting Michelle wondering if I would ever meet someone that I would marry and spend the rest of my life with. There were times when I thought it would never happen. That simple blind date led me to a person that I had been praying and hoping for all my life. 

I relish my time with Michelle. She is the perfect spouse, mother and friend. She believes in me when I am at my end. She loves me in the good times and in the bad times. She smiles on, laughs and stays positive when others would turn the other way and give up.


I read the other day that 41% of all 1st marriages end in divorce and to me that is tragic. Marry the right person to start and then stick together as partners no matter what life will throw at you. The key is having faith in God and faith in each other. With these two things combined the result is always a win in the end. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hyperconnected and still alone

The way we connect to information and to each other has been revolutionized over the last several years. This has come about thanks to the advance of mobile communication devices and social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Blogger, Periscope and on and on. 

We are socially connected more than ever before in history with our fancy devices fundamentally changing the way we communicate. The sad part is that social automation and other technologies are in many cases not bringing people together. For many, it is instead creating an inverse effect with possible “friends” in the thousands but in reality no real relationships.

I am a man. You may be one as well. As men, we are especially at risk to fall into the trap of loneliness and isolation. We are manly men and we are not expected to ever express feelings, show pain or step away from our role of responsibility leading our family from the front into the battles of life. Sure times have changed to soften much of this for many but the reality is that most of us are just hard wired to be closed emotionally and to press on no matter what we are facing.

The results can be devastating as men struggle and find unhealthy outlets for their disconnected loneliness. Emotional detachment from family, affairs, addictions to porn, and alcohol abuse are just a few of the unfortunate outcomes.

Even less talked about is suicide rates among men. Men commit suicide at a rate that is 4X higher than woman and in the US men account for 79% of all suicides. These numbers do not include unreported attempts.

As men what can we learn from all of this? I believe that we must recognize the importance of having a male confidant in our lives. A person that we can have a meaningful and still masculine relationship that allows for openness and sharing. It can be uncomfortable to have truly deep and meaningful conversations with another dude and that is why for most of us this needs to happen while also doing manly things. 

Think being in the outdoors hiking, hunting, chopping wood, building something or just plain doing manly stuff. We are not sit around a smelly candle sipping wine kind of people.

Men let me challenge you to reach out and make a change. You just might save a marriage or even save a life. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Time to let go

August was big for us as our only child left the house to begin a new life in college. This event had loomed for a long time and to be honest I was not really sure of what would be my reaction.

Excitement? Depression? Fear?

The possibilities were broad and fortunately the realities turned out to be mostly positive for us. His excitement was completely contagious and I could not help but smile on my way home thinking of him back in the dorm room with this great next big step into adulthood. He said he could not wait to ask friends over to see his “place.”

The reality is that moving on and growing up is a good thing and being human there is nothing wrong with parents experiencing all the stages of separation that is expected. You name an emotion and I have most likely felt it over these last several weeks as we prepared for the big day.

I have tried my best all these years to be the father to my son that I never experienced as a child. I tried to be there for him when he needed me. I tried to be a loving example as a husband so that he would have a model to follow in his own marriage. I tried to love God and show how to have a foundation of faith. I tried to spend time serving others to show life is not all about me. I tried to encourage him to be independent as a thinker and a person so that he could make choices establish his own beliefs. I tried to teach him about money by avoiding extravagances and keeping out of debt.

Most of all---I tried

Looking back I know there were many things in my list of perfect parenting where I failed. There are things I wish I had done more and things I has wish I had done less.

However

Now is not the time to look in the past or dwell on the should haves. Instead now is the time to look forward to the future and have confidence that we set a solid foundation that will serve him through his future failures and success.

I know his mother and I will miss him but the future of seeing the ongoing result of all these years as he discovers his own way is even more exciting to ponder.

He just better not forget that the door is always open for a return to the Copeland house and I am sure I will still slip him a twenty when mom is not looking.


Good luck son! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The time is almost here.


In just a few weeks our son will be off to college and Michelle and I will make the transition to being empty nester parents.

Excited? Yes! Nervous? Absolutely!

Every parent since the dawn a parenthood has experienced the angst of this time. After years of family fun with events to attend, friends to host and plans to make soon the house will go silent and our child will be completely on his own. Only in our imagination will we know each day how he is getting along.

Thankfully the business of life for a young person through the last couple of years before college in a way help you prepare for the final transition. It seems Michelle and I have had a lot of time these last few months to see what is going to be like when it is just to two of us.

I have been pretty reflective these last few months thinking back to my effectiveness as a parent and the choices we have made over the years. Yes I have some regrets but overall I know we did our best and made many family first choices that I can only pray will pay dividends in his life as he moves off into his new stage of life as a Sooner.

College we welcome you and the many new experiences good and bad that are on the way soon for Conner.

I know the future is going to be and exciting adventure. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Finding Joy at Work

Joy and work

These are two words that for the vast majority of us do not go together. 

Most of us see work simply as that space in between the weekends that serves to provide us medical care, vacations and money to pay the bills. Often, this leads to the Sunday night dread as another new week of despair looms ahead. Is this you?

Let’s face it. Most jobs were never intended to be fun all the time. That is why it is called going to work as opposed to going to fun. 

Nonetheless, there are ways we can make the most of everyday and in the process set ourselves apart from the masses living their work life in despair.

Know your purpose

Why do we work? Is it simply a means to an end so that bills can be paid and away from work fun can be had? That mindset may work for a time but in the long run it leads to drudgery. What if instead we first defined our life purpose and then next applied it to our jobs? My purpose statement is simple:

“To serve God, serve my family and serve those around. I strive to help others have success so that in turn I will experience success”

Your life purpose is critical as it should set the direction for every decision you make about your day and you attitude towards those around you. Feel like you are floundering? You might just need a little direction to move forward. 

Find an attitude mentor

Just about every work group has one these people. You know, the person that no matter what seems to come into work peppy and ready to get busy. These folks jump at the chance to tackle the extra project and take big changes in stride.

This is a person you will want in your inner circle. Ask, “Tell me, what motivates you to be so positive at work?”  I think you might be surprised at the answer and you will find great insight. If open to it, tell this person you are looking for an attitude mentor that will give you nudge from time to time when you may be showing negativity about the workplace.

Show up looking sharp and with a smile

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

I love this famous quote from Martin Luther King as it demonstrates that any job can be filled with satisfaction if you give it your all. Every day I see people working with grim faces while also looking frumpy. I have a secret strategy on my days I know are going to be the most challenging. On these days, I make a point to put on my sweetest shirt and best slacks. I also use a little personal pep talk in the car to slap a smile on that will carry me into the building. 

These little things may sound silly but they do make a huge difference to convince yourself that everything is going to be okay. Oh and on the really over the top days, I make sure to wear a pair of Batman undies that I have had for many years. Sure the day might be stressful but on those days I can have a sly grin on my face knowing that underneath—I am Batman.  

Believe in your future

So your job sucks. That is the time to understand most things in life that suck are temporary. Believe in your abilities, your potential for growth and continue to work with gusto. You might stand out from the crowd by doing so and find yourself up for promotion in the future. If not, then keep making the most of what your have now while also working to find something else that will satisfy you. The key is to not give up hope and to keep growing into the life you were born to have. Give everyday your best and the best will find you. 


Joy and work—I hope you find the best of both.